Sentera links processor with sensor for live NDVI

The Double 4K sensor-processor combination on Sentera drones has its own camera design to provide more accurate images

Coupling a computer to RGB and NIR sensors in a drone provides true NDVI data on-the-fly over a field without translation back at the office.

However, if that’s such a smart idea, why wasn’t it done before?

Sentera of Minnesota unveiled its revolutionary Double 4K sensor and processer at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month. It’s the first time anyone has succeeded in processing and transmitting true NDVI data in the sky.

Combining RGB and NIR provides the operator with streaming true NDVI data transmitted live to the ground in real time.

Sentera vice-president Greg Emerick said it hasn’t been done before because it is not an easy thing to accomplish.

He said the Double 4K unit contains all the components required to function as a camera or video camera. The small green package holds RGB and NIR sensors, a processor and stabilizers to compensate for pitch and roll. The transmitter is a separate component tied to the drone. The Double 4K is available in quadcopter and fixed wing drones.

Operator efficiency is an obvious benefit of the Double 4K.

True NDVI data is transferred to the operator in real time as the drone flies the field. The operator has captured everything he needs before the drone lands, which means he can move to the next field, covering more fields per day.

However, the main benefit comes in the quality of the NDVI data.

Emerick said other systems depend on RGB from standard cameras, which don’t look exactly where they’re supposed to look. As well, they use algorithms to extrapolate their NDVI images from the RGB. As a result, he said their images can achieve only a maximum of 80 percent accuracy.

“The Sentera Double 4K achieves 100 percent NDVI accuracy,” he said. “We have built-in filtration so we collect only the data that’s needed to create NDVI images. We developed the camera ourselves, specifically for a true NDVI image. We own the entire technology string. Because of that, we know what the camera is doing at all times and how it’s responding to conditions.

“If you install a camera that comes off the shelf at a camera store, you don’t know exactly what it’s got. There’s all kinds of built-in software designed to take a nice red, green, blue photograph. It’s constantly trying to balance the light for a nice picture, not an NDVI image.

“Not only does the Double 4K create a true NDVI image, but when you have it in the video format, it’s creating a real time image on every pixel. The big factor here is that you can do real time scouting in NDVI. When you see potential problem areas, you can mark them and keep going. And you can be collecting still imagery to put into a stationary map that’s geo-located.”

The sensor-processor combination is available in two Sentera drones. The Omni Double 4K Ag sensor quadcopter lists for US$16,995, and the Phoenix 2 Double 4K Ag sensor fixed-wing lists for $17,995.

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